Nigeria is 52. Am I supposed to exactly celebrate? Wow, Nigeria’s 52! What a week to be merry and rejoice. Or not? Nigeria is my dad’s age. My dad’s age is Nigeria. When we were young, my dad would tell us all about ‘the good old days’. Those days sounded like fun. Those days seemed like the best ever. They felt like your hopes would never be lost. But those days have long been where they belong – in the past, gone.

When I think of a nation like mine – Nigeria – I’m tempted to think of betrayal first. I think of the man who lost his life as a sickening result of infrastructural breakdown at his trusted hospital. I think of this dying man with six children and a wife. I think of some whose right to live freely and wherever they would restricted due to fear of terrorist attacks. I think of others who’ve lost their lives in a plane crash. About a plane crash; I think of the young entrepreneur who was prepared to take his world by storm with the world’s most impressive and creative ideas. I think of the aspiring model, of the confused individual who even though had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, was at least grateful for that life until it was wrongfully taken away from him. When I think about Nigeria, I remember Aisha awaiting her fiance’s arrival. She would be at the airport later that day to receive him but the shocking news of his possible death wouldn’t let her. When she took her own life, I wasn’t the first to blame her. I only wished she hadn’t. These people hung up in the air for as long as the plane would stay there; hoping that their country would send help, praying that they would but somehow knowing that they wouldn’t. Or couldn’t.

No one said ‘Happy Independence’ to me – except my mom and siblings. Everyone just went about their duties like it didn’t matter, ,like it wasn’t someone’s birthday. Like there wasn’t a thing to celebrate. Everyone that is everybody I met outside of my nuclear home. And the funny thing? We planned to see a movie together as a family, as part of the celebration. Just as soon as we slotted the CD in, the lights went out and I said ‘Up NEPA’ in sarcasm. No, no one was playing ‘hide and seek’. It was NEPA, oh sorry, PHCN that pulled a trick on us until evening. The lights came on later that night and went out fifteen minutes later. Wow, what a wonderful country. I couldn’t blame my cousin. She finalized plans and moved out of the country last year. Her last words before she kissed me goodbye were as shocking. ‘I’m never coming back!’ I miss my cousin. She was the best I ever had. It’s painful; I don’t have her. My country did that to me. And that’s the least.

You know, I’m not going to be my cousin. I’m going to do something to make it work apart from just staying. I hope every Nigerian will. I hope every Nigerian will be mandated to. I want to think of a new Nigeria. I believe in the new Nigeria as much as I believe in the reality of pursuing a dream that you have. But I wish this ‘New Nigeria’ didn’t stop on our lips. If there was a way nto work it out. And there is. If we could just work it out. And we can. If people could resore the glory days of their nation, omg! so can we. It can’t be so impossible, only it will be hard work. Aren’t we a people known for hard work? If only we could channel it properly. It would only take everything it took them to be where they are now, brains being the front lining factor. And we have that. Only we refuse to put it to relevant use. But an end can come to that.

As I write this, I turn to the man beside me and ask the very obvious. ‘Is Nigeria 52?’

‘Of course, you didn’t know?’, he retorted.

‘So why isn’t anyone celebrating?’, I ask him as though he could provide all the answers I would need.

He smiles, showing me the paper he’s reading. ‘It’s the topic on the news. Nobody wants to go anywhere they’ll be bombed all in the name of celebrating Nigeria. There’s nothing to celebrate. Let’s just be grateful to God for everything’. He says and turns to continue reading his paper.

As though his words didn’t confuse me, I attempted to ask him another question but upon noticing his resolve – he was hell-bent on reading that paper – I though it wise to just let him be. His words reverberated over and again. Yeah, be grateful to God. I will be grateful to God. I am grateful to God. First of all, for the gift of life and a good one. I’m grateful for the ability to dream, to pursue and achieve all that I want; for my family, friends, colleagues, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for everything I have and that I have them. And for my cousin. For God and everything that makes life worth living. And then again, I’m grateful for Nigeria. That I’m Nigerian. I’m grateful we can grow. I’m happy we will grow. I’m certain we are on that path and I look forward to the New Nigeria. God bless Nigeria.

Photo Credit: Nuru Jay Agbaje